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Tuitt's breakout vs. Navy fueled by will to dominate

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Tuitt's breakout vs. Navy fueled by will to dominate

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Stephon Tuitt scooped up a loose ball, took off for the end zone and and didn't look back, running 77 yards into the end zone and to the forefront of minds thousands of miles across the ocean.

"That was the longest run I'll probably ever have in my life," Tuitt said Wednesday.

The sophomore defensive end's breakout game has been in the works since he signed with Notre Dame nearly two years ago. A five-star recruit -- with only superhuman South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney ranking ahead of him at his position -- Tuitt and Aaron Lynch were supposed to be the star defensive ends of the future from the minute each stepped on campus in South Bend.

That's the way things looked in Notre Dame's Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State last December. Tuitt and Lynch were perhaps the two biggest standouts in the game. And Tuitt's emergence wasn't a coincidence, as he said the month of practices leading up to the bowl game helped him immensely.

"From that point to the bowl game, it hit me to know about the defense," Tuitt said. "It was all better, (I) was all comfortable then."

Lynch has since transferred to USF, desiring being back in his native state of Florida. But Tuitt's still in northern Indiana, and his offseason mantra is beginning to pay dividends not only on the field, but off it too.

"The only word I remember him using was dominate; dominate in the classroom, which he did in the summer, over 3.5 (GPA)," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's been on this mission of, whatever it is, and it's not just football, it's everything in his life, it's film study -- last night, he's in there film studying, taking notes, and I think he's just a very, very driven young man right now."

Kelly added that, during running drills in fall camp, Tuitt ran not with his fellow defensive ends, but with the team's cornerbacks. He showed off that speed on Saturday in taking his fumble recovery 77 yards into the end zone, sprinting his way toward six points with the kind of speed rarely seen in a 300-pound lineman.

But that athleticism fits with a sight offensive lineman Chris Watt relayed from earlier in the summer.

"In practice one time, Tuitt dropped back in pass coverage and was covering a wide receiver man-to-man and doing it pretty well," Watt said. "We were watching it on film during camp and it was pretty ridiculous."

Notre Dame will face plenty of challenging offenses this season, from Michigan State and Stanford's powerful rushing attacks to USC and Oklahoma's outstanding passing abilities. While Tuitt is only one of 11, he's someone who could be key in Notre Dame's ability to stop those opponents from finding the end zone.

"The fire is lit with him to dominate and be the best at everything he does," Kelly said.

ICYMI: Wendell Carter Jr. out 8-12 weeks; Corey Crawford returns to the ice; Kris Bryant angers Cardinal Nation;

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: Wendell Carter Jr. out 8-12 weeks; Corey Crawford returns to the ice; Kris Bryant angers Cardinal Nation;

Wendell Carter Jr.'s rookie season might be over due to a thumb injury, Corey Crawford returned to the ice for the Blackhawks and Kris Bryant pissed off Cardinal Nation. Here's what you might have missed from the weekend in Chicago sports:

Bulls

Wendell Carter Jr.'s rookie season appears to be over following news that the 19-year-old needs thumb surgery. Carter's season ends as an unknown, much like the rest of the Bulls' season.

Chicago-native Dwyane Wade played his final NBA game in Chicago on Saturday night, a 117-103 Heat win. It is impossible to tell the story of Wade's Hall of Fame career without including Chicago.

No player was happier to return to Chicago from the Bulls' 0-5 West Coast trip than Kris Dunn, whose midrange game has disappeared.

Following their big loss to the Heat, Zach LaVine had telling comments about the state of the Bulls. Matt Peck, David Watson and John Sabine react to that and more on the latest Bulls Outsiders Podcast.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday, taking down the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals 8-5. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a big game, tallying five points apiece.

In other positive news, Corey Crawford returned to the ice before practice on Saturday. Crawford has been in concussion protocol since Dec. 16.

Henri Jokiharju was a healthy scratch on Sunday, but the Blackhawks are pleased with the rookie defenseman's progression.

Cubs

At Cubs Convention on Friday, Theo Epstein said he does not think the Cubs are done making moves this winter. However, the Cubs president mentioned how adding to the bullpen is the main focus and insisted there is a lot of work happening behind the scenes.

Epstein also laid out what suspended shortstop Addison Russell has to do to return to the Cubs.

New Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta was happy in California. Then, the Cubs came calling; what does Loretta bring to the team in 2019?

Yu Darvish is ready for takeoff after making just eight starts in 2018, his debut campaign on the North Side.

Kris Bryant called St. Louis boring, and Cardinal Nation was not too happy about it.

David Kaplan and Kelly Crull talked with Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Kris Bryant and many more on Friday's edition of SportsTalk Live.

Other

The White Sox are reportedly discussing a trade with the Dodgers regarding outfielder Joc Pederson. Plus, the Manny Machado sweepstakes are getting kind of mysterious.

What should the Bears do with impending free agent safety Adrian Amos? If the team re-signs Amos, he will have a new defensive backs coach in 2019, as the Bears hired Deshea Townsend on Friday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, multiple teams are interested in former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Bears head coach Matt Nagy did not shut down the possibility of adding Hunt at the team's end of season press conference last week.

 

Bryce Harper jokes that Tony Romo knows where outfielder will sign in free agency

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USA TODAY

Bryce Harper jokes that Tony Romo knows where outfielder will sign in free agency

Is it possible that the best quarterback in Sunday’s AFC Championship was not on the field, but instead in the broadcast booth?

CBS analyst and former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was the talk of Sunday’s matchup between the Patriots and Chiefs. Romo consistently predicted plays before they happened, much to the delight and amazement of those watching the game on television.

MLB superstar Bryce Harper even chimed in on Twitter. Harper, who is still a free agent, jokingly tweeted that he called Romo to learn which team he will play for in 2019.

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes delivered an instant-classic game on the field. However, Romo’s performance in the booth deserves recognition and should be remembered as well.

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